Fisheries is an important sector but it contributes only 0.3 percent to the overall GDP of Pakistan and 1.3 percent to the agricultural GDP, despite a coastline of 1,050 km and a total area of approximately 0.25 million square kilometers of marine and 0.08 million sq km of inland waters. The sector has an export potential of $1 billion’ annually and it provides direct employment to about 379,000 fishermen and 400,000 people are employed in ancillary industries. The country’s total stock of various fish and their landing are: small pelagics 700,000 tons (landing 96,658 tons); demarsals 500,000 tons (168,225 landing); large pelagics 88,000 tons (landing 47,141 tons); shellfish 171,000 tons (landing 28,166 tons); mesopelagics 10,000,000 tons with no landing. Balochistan fish landings dropped from 126,755 tons in 2003 to 137,082 tons in 2007. The shellfish stocks (shrimps, lobsters, crabs, etc) have dropped to 28,166 tons of landing against the maximum sustainable yield of 47,500 tons, according to the Marine Fisheries Department.
Balochistan makes up 70 percent of Pakistan’s total coastal line. Unfortunately, the province has been confined to merely on-shore water fishing due to lack of infrastructure facilities. The catch is spoiled as it is exposed to sun and impurities. In the absence of quality control regime, fresh and good quality fish find no access to national and international markets at large scales. Local fishermen are confronted with numerous problems. They still follow the old and obsolete methods of fishing. They are unaware of latest fishing technologies and still use old and smaller vessels for fishing. They have no processing plant for preservation of their catch. Local fishermen have no access to national and international markets for lack of infrastructure facilities and mainly because of their poverty. They remain deprived of fruit of their catch and hence there seems no improvement in their socio-economic conditions.
Balochistan enjoys diversity of marine life in nature. Its coastline is the most productive marine ecosystem of the world. According to an estimate, 60 species of fish and 10 of shrimps, including the best in the world, are found in the province. It produces 200,000 tons of fish per year, of which 80,000 tons are fished by trawlers from Sindh.
Shrimp farming is an important economic activity, which can develop unproductive salty coastal areas of Balochistan. The land along coastal belt has enormous potential for development of shrimp farming and processing projects, which can play a vital role in fisheries development in the province. Technical assistance from National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) may be sought for shrimp farming on extensive level in Balochistan. Establishment of a dehydration plant in Balochistan is under consideration of the federal government.
There is a need to rehabilitate the local fishermen and improve the conditions under which they work. Increasing cost of transportation and lack of preservation technology are the main hurdles barring the local fisherman to fish in deep waters. The working capital should be provided to purchase fuel, ration and ice, overhead expenses i.e. labor, packaging, processing and cleaning items required for export of fish. Credit for consumable items for curing and drying would also be provided while a long list of items regarding freezing, packaging charges, etc. was produced to banks for financing.
Government should announce incentives for induction of the private sector in fisheries development, as the interested entrepreneurs and investors can promote the shrimp farming in the province purely on the commercial basis. The provincial government should allot lands in coastal districts to private parties interested in promoting shrimp farming. Introduction to the modern technology and application of sophisticated techniques in the field must be the focus of economic planners involved in devising a pro-active strategy for capturing more market share of shrimp business in the global market.
The economic planners should also devise the strategies for production of quality farm-raised shrimps and for exploitation of tremendous marketing opportunities in the world market. The three major markets for farm-raised shrimp are the United States, Europe and Japan. Efforts should be made for setting up environment-friendly shrimp farms in Balochistan, as environmental deterioration in shrimp farms and coastal waters is common evidence after intensive shrimp farming due to the accumulation of organic waste.
The fisheries export potential needs to be tapped fully and efficiently. Steps need to be taken on priority basis to introduce new technologies and impart training to the local fishermen for fishing on modern lines. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is committed to provide financial assistance of $25 million for development of fisheries in coastal districts of Gwadar and Lasbela in Balochistan. Under the program, the IFAD would provide financial assistance to help develop the rural infrastructure mostly in fisheries sector.
Previous government planned to construct 8 shrimp farms on the basis of private-public partnership in the province. Each model shrimp farm comprised of up to 100 pond units of 1-2 acres each, 75 percent of these ponds were to be for private sector. Former government also planned to construct a model fish market in coastal town of Gwadar. The project was aimed at introducing intensive fish cage culture at Sabkzai and Mirani dams and developing the coastal areas and alleviating poverty in the province. The sites for shrimp farms and shrimp hatchery had been identified at Gadani, Dam Ormara, Pasni, Kalmat, Pishukan and Jiwani. Balochistan government was to allot around 500 acres of land free of cost at each site identified for the project.
The present government needs to devise a pro-active strategy for capturing more market share of shrimp business in the global market by promoting shrimp farming alongside the coastal line in Sindh. Various government agencies including Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) and Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (SMEDA) may chalk out a national road map to promote the shrimp farming in coastal areas. It is a positive step in this direction that the State Bank of Pakistan devised a detailed plan to finance the fisheries sector, which receives bank credits just 0.4 percent of the total agricultural credit disbursements.